Nightly News | December 17, 2011
>>> the war in iraq is officially over, but there are still u.s. troops in the country preparing to make the long journey home. it begins with a layover in the place where it all began for our troops nine years ago. and our chief foreign correspondent richard engle is there.
>> reporter: a last roll call before going home .
>> it's definitely a great thing. i can't wait to go home.
>> seeing my wife again. spend some time with the family.
>> reporter: the u.s. military command closed in baghdad, but troops are still leaving iraq, crossing the border and coming here to kuwait . kuwait is iraq's official out processing center, where the war is packed up and shipped home.
>> we're all looking forward to getting home. but six months, a year from now, everybody's going look back on it, wow, we were the last people there.
>> reporter: the iraq war was launched from here in kuwait nearly nine years ago. now everything seems in reverse. the troops are leaving from where they once prepared to fight a dictator. the war is ending where it began. tanks are being washed instead of prepped for battle. kuwait 's now being described as the world's biggest parking lot. it's packed with $8 billion worth of vehicles.
>> it's coming all here, it's getting put on the property book and making sure we can account for all the equipment.
>> reporter: for the troops, the procedures are relatively simple but can seem slow and boring. most of the troops spend about five days in kuwait , turning in gear, filling out paperwork, packing and loading. until finally a preflight inspection x-raying weapons in a scene that might terrify the tsa. then as they pass a sign that reads "freedom" the troops move to a holding pen called lockdown. with home so close, kuwait can feel like the worst five-day layover. they play cards and games, but the flights do eventually come.
>> happy to go home.
>> reporter: and after a war that tested and at times tore the nation, the army is going home . richard engle, nbc news, kuwait .